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Keeping Up With Maury
98th Birthday Dinner
by Maury Feren

Where would you choose to go to entertain a special person if you could afford the high dollar expenditure? Do you think it is that easy? First of all, there are so many good restaurants in Greater Cleveland to choose from.

What kind of food does this person like? Is it Asian? Fusion? Is he a steak lover? Sushi? Vegan or a veggie? There are so many choices.

That's the problem my son and daughter-in-law had when they came in for my birthday for September 27th week. They called Moxie two days ahead only to find that they were completely booked, including that Saturday ahead. Poor me, I had to settle for Red, their premium restaurant.

When you talk about Red, the steakhouse, you are talking about big numbers and top quality food, the best! As you might think, the ambience is subdued, soft lighting, beautiful ambience. Red is the main color and the setting lends itself to a nice intimate evening.

Service is another quality that Brad Friedlander prides himself on. Our waiter spelled out all the specialties, but we knew what we wanted to eat before we walked in. There was no question there would be steak on our plates before the evening would be over. Red is known throughout the country as a great steakhouse.

I chose an Arugula Salad which I found to be very interesting looking. However, it was much too salty and I wish I had chosen a regular chopped salad just as my son Alan and his wife Carol had chosen. I truly felt badly and I would have sent it back expect for the fact the evening was so special. A 98th birthday party!

My assistant, Esther, ordered a quarter of a head of lettuce garnished with the usual French dressing and Red style accouterments. I've had some good salads in other places that I could rave about. Flour does beautiful crisp salads that just jump out of the plate. Parallax along with Cowell and Hubbard, Zach Bruell style, and Wolfgang Puck at the Siedman Center Cancer can take bows for the salads they create.

Don't be fooled, Wolfgang Puck's little cafe for fill-ins is one of the best buys around. The choices are excellent and he will more than meet your expectations. I have just failed to stop there enough times to get to try more choices that he offers.

Besides, I'm not going to kid myself, every time I get fancy, I go off the hook. The portions at Red are huge. Fortunately, we split the baked potato three ways. It was huge! You might want to take notice that only a few places do baked potatoes well. You need a special oven and it is a big failing in many restaurants to this day. Wendy's is a favorite of mine for baked potatoes. Their salads and a baked potato make many a happy lunch for me.

My children learned a long time ago that half portions do well in these kinds of restaurants. They split a rib eye steak. I have to tell you this; those steaks could be split in half, easily enough for anybody. A beautiful crusty finish and just done enough for the red meat to show it's just right done color.

How do they do that with steaks? There has to be a machine or some perfected method for those steaks to come out exactly the way they were ordered every time. Alan, a true Californian, who has been in many top notch restaurants all over the world couldn't say enough about the taste and flavor. He raved about the steaks to the next day. He couldn't say enough about them. So it had to be extra special.

He did add that the prices were Californian, meaning they were high enough to take note. I would agree with that, but the restaurant was full and the clientele did not seem to have that in mind.

My veal chop on the long bone came out exactly the same way. Crusty from top to bottom, fully seared, with a rich delicious well done inside. It was ordered medium and was finished exactly that way. There was no probability that I could finish that gigantic chop. I took home half of it finishing it the next day. There is no question that the meat was done perfectly with outstanding flavor easily one of the best meals I have enjoyed. You may remember the Beachwood Pub who was a specialist in the veal long boned chop. The Roman Gardens and Giovanni's met this test unquestionably.

Esther, my assistant, enjoyed a well-prepared shrimp and seafood mix that she finished without picking up her head. I would say, it was one of the best entrees she has ever enjoyed. She agreed.

Alan and Carol can never come to Cleveland without stopping for dinner at Geraci's restaurant 2260 Warrensville Center Road. They are married 47 years and their first date was at Geraci's. Alan ordered a lasagna, Carol a pepperoni pizza. They couldn't get enough of their choices. They had to stop there was so much to enjoy.

When I talk to people about Italian food, I always say where's the sauce? The sauce makes the dish. However, at Geraci's, they pile on the cheese. It has to be the best. Geraci's has been recognized for many years as one of the best pizzerias in Greater Cleveland. It hasn't changed.

Marty and Gregg run the restaurant since her parents became ill. No matter who they choose in today's new markets, the name Geraci for pizza and their sauce will remain forever in the history of pizza in this town. Others can try to duplicate it, but they will never match the individual flavor and taste of their food.

I used to say there are few great sauces in the restaurant field. Tratorria, Geraci's', Pizzaz at S.O.M. Center Road, Giovanni's, and one other was Moxie's. There are sauces and sauces, but these guys are for real.

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